Antarctica Unit Study: Montessori Penguin Puzzle Art

“Of all things, love is the most potent.”
Maria Montessori
When I was a pre-teen, I would schedule my monthly orthodontia appointments so they’d fall during Art class.  True Story.  I’d rather get my teeth straightened than sit and listen to Art instruction.  I’m sure my mom was cracking up every time I stood at the receptionist’s desk and rescheduled for the same time next month.  When I was in high school, I doubled up on my science course load for a year, choosing to take Astronomy as well as Anatomy & Physiology, just so I could opt out of Art completely. 

Looking back as an adult, I now know it was the method and implementation of the Art curriculum I had been exposed to up to that point that left me disinterested in the subject.  Pencils, scissors, copy or construction paper, glue sticks, and maybe a couple scrap classroom materials were the only materials we used 90% of the time.  We sat still at our desks while our materials were passed around.  Very rarely did we explore using tempera paint, watercolors, oil pastels, clay, etc.  We never went outside for Art or were allowed to move freely around the room.  Contributing factors may well have been ease of use, cleanup, and cost for a classroom full of students.  It may very well have enticed some children, but the repetition and lack of variety just didn’t hold my interest.
Keeping that in mind, we are motivated to encourage at least an appreciation of Art in our children, if not a full-on love affair.  Last year around this time we shared a look at our Art Space and how we incorporate Art into our Montessori homeschool environment.  We will be sharing an update, which includes our preschooler’s handwriting materials, here shortly.  We’ve also shared several Art experiences already, but this is a great one for a couple reasons in particular:  demonstrating the versatility of materials we already own and extending our work in our current Montessori Continent Studies. We are always finding creative ways to engage with our materials so I thought I’d share a simple extension of our use of our Montessori penguin puzzle.
We are currently implementing 3 activities for 1 puzzle and at different stages of development.  The wooden puzzle alone is a great Sensorial experience for our 2.5 year-old son, and it’s a great Language/Geography activity for our almost 4-year-old when combined with 3 part cards.  Another option is using it for an Art experience, as our oldest daughter and I did below:
Materials We Used:
The watercolor pencils and paper we used for this activity are typically reserved for our nature journaling and live separate from the supplies in our Art space (so no spoilers here), but since we aren’t planning any trips to Antarctica right now, this is a great opportunity to bust them out for our continent studies.  
For this experience, we each traced each of the puzzle pieces onto the paper, using whatever color floats our boats, and then we colored them in.  This is very similar to the tracing work our daughter does with her metal insets, an important pre-writing experience.  We talked about the parts of the penguin and what they’re used for.  

Our kids currently enjoy learning about these unique birds, what they eat, their life cycles, and how they care for their young.  We also talk about the penguin’s journey, how the penguin represents patience and determination, and how important conduct is, especially when no one is looking, as it has significant consequences for their family.  This is one of the ways in which we tie in character and morality studies in our homeschool environment.

We then experimented with the water and different size paintbrushes, and we observed how they affected the outcome of each piece of the penguin, big brushes on big and small pieces, and then small brushes on big and small puzzle pieces.  
Sometimes we do artwork side-by-side with our children, and we are not instructing, but rather modeling.  They may choose to copy what we do, and sometimes they take their own creative path.  This is also a great way to entice their interest if they for some reason are not instantly drawn to the water, as our little ones are.
Once we finished having fun with the brushes, we set our artwork flat to dry, before hanging it in our Art space.  Our daughter enjoyed this experience and she usually retells the story of what we did whenever she lays eyes on it.  

A great variation for our 2.5 year-old son is to assist/trace the pieces in front of him before he explores in his own unique way.  This encourages engagement with the puzzle and an introduction to the matching of the pieces to the artwork.

Next in the queue, we have an updated look at our Handwriting/Art materials, and an update on our Math journey, so stay tuned for that.

We hope everyone is enjoying Montessori Education Week! <3
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